China's November aluminum output falls to lowest since February 2015

FILE PHOTO: Workers ride on an motor rickshaw through an aluminium ingots depot in Wuxi, Jiangsu province September 26, 2012. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - China’s primary aluminum production fell for a fifth consecutive month in November, official data showed on Thursday, as the country’s winter restrictions on smelters pushed output to its lowest since February 2015.

The world’s top aluminum producer churned out 2.35 million tonnes of the metal last month, down 7.8 percent from 2.55 million tonnes in October and down 16.8 percent from a year ago, according to the National Bureau of Statistics..

In a first for China’s aluminum industry, smelters in 28 northern Chinese cities were told to cut output by at least 30 percent during this year’s peak winter heating season - which kicked off in mid-November - to combat air pollution.

Analysts, however, have noted that China Hongqiao Group, the world’s biggest aluminum smelter, managed to avoid steep output cuts despite being based in Binzhou, Shandong province, one of the 28 cities, after closing 2.68 million tonnes of illegal capacity earlier this year.

That could help explain the relatively shallow month-on-month drop in China’s overall output.

“The winter cut’s impact is limited, especially the implementation in Shandong, which doesn’t meet people’s previous expectation,” said Jackie Wang, an aluminum analyst at CRU in Beijing. She projected that December output would be “probably flat” to the November figure.

January-November aluminum production came in at 29.54 million tonnes, according to the statistics bureau, up 1.7 percent from the same period last year and within striking distance of an annual record-high in 2017. China produced 31.87 million tonnes of aluminum in 2016.

China’s overall non-ferrous metals output in November came in at 4.32 million tonnes, its lowest since April 2016. Production was down 3.1 percent from 4.46 million tonnes in October and down 6.9 percent from the same month in 2016, the statistics bureau said.

January-November nonferrous production stood at 49.34 million tonnes, up 2.5 percent from a year ago and still on course for an annual record-high. The country’s nonferrous output in 2016 was 52.8 million tonnes.

Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Joseph Radford and Tom Hogue